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Ferguson Fire destroys nine ‘abandoned structures,’ grows to 68,610 acres

Body of Capt. Brian Hughes arrives in Fresno

A hearse delivered the body of Capt. Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots Thursday afternoon. Hughes died Sunday fighting the Ferguson Fire. A memorial service will be held at the Fresno Convention Center Saturday.
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A hearse delivered the body of Capt. Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots Thursday afternoon. Hughes died Sunday fighting the Ferguson Fire. A memorial service will be held at the Fresno Convention Center Saturday.

The Ferguson Fire tore through nine abandoned structures as it grew to 68,601 acres overnight, authorities reported.

Natasha Fouts-Noble, spokesperson for Cal Fire, said the structures were located on the west side of the blaze, between Incline Road and Ned’s Gulch. Officials believed the buildings to be abandoned because they are located on unused roads. Around 815 structures are still threatened.

On Thursday, a procession of firefighters transported to body of Brian Hughes from the Stanislaus Coroner’s Office to Fresno. His memorial is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Fresno Convention Center inside Valdez Hall, 702 M St. in Fresno.

Hughes, 33, was killed last Sunday when he was struck by a falling tree. On July 14, Braden Varney , a 36-year-old bulldozer operator, was killed within the first few days of the blaze when his vehicle turned over.

Containment remained at 39 percent due to the trio of spot fires that took the focus off of containment line operations. An informational meeting on the Ferguson Fire will take place 6 p.m. Friday at the Mountain Christian Center in Oakhurst at 40299 Hwy. 49.

“The big thing right now are those spot fires. We need to get those controlled and contained so we can continue or firing operations,” Fouts-Noble said.

One of the spot fires prompted a precautionary evacuation of Wawona on Wednesday evening as firefighters began constructing a containment line at Big Creek, according to a U.S Forest Service spokesman.

Once those spot fires are put out, focus will again return to extending the containment line along the north and east side of the fire.

Firefighters prepared containment lines along Wawona Road on Wednesday to further box in the fire and protect the community of Foresta should the direction of the blaze shift.

On the north side of the fire, Big Oak Flat Road was closed because of smoke and congestion from firefighting vehicles and equipment. The road is closed west of Crane Flat, and the only entrance into Yosemite National Park is from Lee Vining, along Highway 395.

Smoke from California fires has made the air in Fresno hazy and unhealthy for sensitive groups. On Tuesday, the air quality reached a danger zone due to soot from the Ferguson Fire.

The closure of Yosemite Valley remains in effect through Aug. 5.

There was some encouraging news related to the fire Thursday, as the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District reported better air quality for the central San Joaquin Valley, which had experienced a spike in particulate matter related to smoke from the blaze.

There are 3,344 firefighters and support personnel battling the blaze, which started on July 13, along with 14 helicopters and 49 bulldozers. Eleven firefighters have been injured.

A high-pressure system above the Ferguson Fire continues to weaken, resulting in warmer and drier conditions. According to the U.S. Forest Service, this will produce taller smoke columns in the next few days.

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